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Salida Community Development Director Glen Van Nimwegen offered an update on the Future 50 community visioning project at the recent City Council work session.

Future 50 is intended to engage community members and generate ideas for future development along U.S. Highway 50 in Salida, and Van Nimwegen emphasized that the process, while “nowhere near complete,” has generated some ideas based on input from community members and visitors.

Those ideas are intended to address residents’ four major concerns identified by previous Future 50 community outreach efforts dating back to July:

• Safety, by far the most prevalent concern.
• Connectivity, including downtown, trails and South Arkansas River open spaces.
• Vibrancy.
• Economic strength.

Van Nimwegen outlined initial priorities identified to address these concerns in the short term as well as the longer term.

He said short-term priorities include:

• Finishing the sidewalks from Holman Ave. to Walmart.
• Identifying locations for new signals and pedestrian crossings, which will help slow traffic speeds and address safety concerns.
• Identifying bicycle crossings.
• Having the Colorado Department of Transportation complete an intersection study for the Colo. Highway 291 intersection.

As preliminary long-term priorities, Van Nimwegen mentioned:

• An “Uptown Salida” concept to make the highway corridor more vibrant and appealing.
• Designing future development around a 30-mph speed limit.
• Exploring three-lane options with parallel parking and wider bicycle lanes, especially between 14th and H streets.
• Improving side streets with intersection realignments and additional on-street parking.

Additional priorities include supporting businesses along the highway corridor by:

• Improving streetscape design to encourage businesses to invest along the corridor.
• Exploring changes to policy, code and regulatory barriers that currently inhibit economic development.

Van Nimwegen noted that the Future 50 process started in July, “and we’ve really been working up until Sept. 25 just trying to bring the question of ‘What is your vision for Highway 50?’” to as many people as possible.

The next phase of the project included a community visioning workshop Oct. 8 at the SteamPlant, where “we had over 50 folks come in during that three-hour period,” said Van Nimwegen.

The workshop included discussions about the roadway and urban design along the highway, including architecture and land uses. He said. “We got a lot of great ideas from that, and we used all of that information entering into last week,” which included three days of workshops and design charrettes.

Community Builders, the nonprofit organization providing funding for Future 50, brought in two engineers who specialize in transportation planning, a designer and an architect to draft ideas into sketches to help visualize possibilities.

Open house events each evening engaged members of the public, who provided feedback on the designs, Van Nimwegen said. Next, Community Builders will compile that information into a report, “and then we want to repeat the process and talk to those stakeholders that we talked to in the beginning.”

Based in part on a Colorado Department of Transportation crash analysis for the past 10 years, the consultants prioritized improvements at intersections but mainly between 14th and H streets to address residents’ primary concern of safety, said Van Nimwegen.

That section of Highway 50 has had the most crashes and offers the best opportunities for connecting the highway with downtown.

He added that people frequently suggested that the speed limits be lowered on the highway. “CDOT won’t do that,” he said because it’s a wide-open roadway and just lowering the speed limit will cause some people to drive slower while others will continue to drive fast.

That combination has been shown to increase the number of crashes as well as their severity. In other words, changes need to be made to the roadway to encourage drivers to slow down.

Van Nimwegen said several business owners have stated, “We’ve studied this to death … so why don’t we just complete the improvements that have been started?”

In fact, Van Nimwegen noted, the city recently received approval from CDOT to add sidewalks and street lights between Palmer Street and Highway 291. “We expect construction will start in the new year.”

Adding curbs and gutters for the section of highway from Holman Avenue to Walmart needs a drainage study and has been prioritized by Future 50, as has the CR 110 intersection, said Van Nimwegen.